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article imageFacebook's Oculus unveils way to make virtual reality affordable

By James Walker     Oct 7, 2016 in Technology
Facebook's Oculus has announced it has found a way to make VR more accessible by using software tweaks to reduce the minimum system requirements of VR headsets. A high-performance PC is currently required, preventing people from adopting VR.
Oculus made the announcement at its Connect developers event this week. Over 3,000 people attended the conference, the biggest in Oculus' history. During the keynote, Oculus introduced a new technology called Asynchronous Spacewarp (ASW), a technique which will enable the company's Rift headset to run on less powerful computers.
VR games have to run at a minimum framerate of 90fps to look smooth and avoid inducing motion blur. This requires a powerful computer which in turn leads to high entry prices for people purchasing a VR headset for the first time. Facebook recognised the need for initial costs to fall if VR is to achieve mass adoption. ASW helps to aid this, utilising software technologies to bring the Rift to more devices.
Oculus Rift at Oculus Connect 3  October 2016
Oculus Rift at Oculus Connect 3, October 2016
ASW enables computers to render games at half their usual framerate, 45fps. This is a lot less taxing on their hardware, letting more PCs power the Rift. According to Oculus, the resulting content "looks nearly as good" as if the game was rendered natively at 90fps. The Rift's software is able to process the 45fps content so the difference isn't perceptible. This has enabled Oculus to reduce the minimum system requirements for the Rift. As a consequence, the cheapest "Oculus Ready" device is now a $499 laptop sold by Cyberpower.
Oculus also introduced a new version of the Rift at the event. Santa Cruz is a standalone feature prototype device that Oculus is using to demonstrate inside-out-tracking. This tracking method reverses the way the Rift currently works out its location, placing the camera on the headset and the IR markers in stationary locations.
Alongside Santa Cruz, Oculus announced that its Touch controllers will finally be available to pre-order on October 10. Priced at $199, the long-awaited controllers will start shipping on December 6. Oculus is coming late to the market with the motion-sensing Touch. Its primary rival, the HTC Vive, launched with a motion-tracking controller in the box, a key advantage over the Oculus Rift.
Oculus Rift at Oculus Connect 3  October 2016
Oculus Rift at Oculus Connect 3, October 2016
Facebook hopes the launch of Touch and the new technology demoed at Connect will revive enthusiasm around the Rift. The Vive's hardware advantages and the recent Oculus backlash caused by founder Palmer Luckey's political views have damaged the Rift's reputation. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the headset has had "a little bit of a slow start," the Wall Street Journal reports, but he remains optimistic for the future of the company's work in VR.
During Oculus' event, Zuckerberg announced Facebook is creating a $250 million fund to help developers build virtual reality content. It has already spent the same amount on VR games and apps. The company is also working on a standalone virtual reality headset that won't require a computer to use. It will be closer to mobile devices like Samsung's Galaxy Gear VR and Google's Daydream View, potentially making it more attractive to general consumers.
More about Facebook, oculus, oculus rift, Vr, Virtual reality
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